Possible problems and pitfalls
While a tenancy agreement will protect your rights as a tenant, there are various scenarios you may encounter which may cause issues. Therefore, it is wise to plan ahead before committing to a tenancy.
Before your search
When searching for a rental property, using an accredited letting agent can provide reassurance; look for letting agents that are members of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or National Assured Letting Scheme (NALS).
At present there are no statutory arrangements for the regulation of letting agents. However, since 1st October 2014, all letting agents in England must be a member of a government approved redress scheme and have a client money protection scheme. Letting agent redress schemes provide a free and independent service for resolving disputes between letting agents and their customers (landlords and tenants).
Additionally, there are accrediting bodies that operate codes of practice and compliance controls which govern their members. Moreland is a member of ARLA and The Property Ombudsman, meaning landlords and tenants are provided peace of mind when using our services.
Joint and several tenancy agreements
If you are sharing a property you will have a Joint and Several liability tenancy agreement, which means that each tenant is jointly and individually responsible for the term of the agreement including paying the rent. Therefore, if one person falls behind in rent payments, you are all responsible for paying it, or any arrears that build up because of it.
Ending a joint tenancy
A joint tenancy can only be ended by all tenants. If this is before the fixed term has ended, it can only be ended with agreement the landlord, or if there is a break clause in the agreement which allows for the tenancy to end early. The notice period required in any break clause will be outlined in your tenancy agreement.
If the tenancy is periodic and the fixed term has ended and no agreement has been executed, one tenant can leave the property without the agreement of the others. However, until the landlord gets back a vacant property, the full rent is still required from the tenants who remain in the property.
If one tenant wishes to leave before the fixed term has ended, it may be possible (with the landlords consent) to find a new tenant to take their place. This will mean entering into a new tenancy agreement. See our guide to establishing your budget and finances for tenant charges.
Even if there is an issue with another tenant living in the property the landlord will not be able to evict a single person from a joint tenancy, however, they may be able to end the tenancy and offer a new one to the remaining tenants.
Joint tenancy deposits
By law the deposit must be held in a government-backed Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme. The deposit for a joint tenancy is treated as a lump sum.
If any deductions are to be made at the end of the tenancy, they will be taken from the entire deposit – disputes cannot be raised against individual shares. In many cases, tenants will be required to nominate a ‘lead tenant’ who will act on behalf of all tenants throughout the deposit protection process.
Rent and rent increases
Fixed term Assured and Assured Shorthold tenants must pay the rent agreed when the tenancy started. The landlord will not usually be able to increase the rent during the fixed term unless the tenant requests it or the tenancy agreement allows for it. The landlord and tenant can agree to increase the rent after the fixed term or during a periodic tenancy.
Rent arrears and financial difficulty
It is important to pay your rent on time; if you do not, you may be at risk of eviction. If you are experiencing financial difficulty it is important that you speak to your landlord or agent; you may be able to reach an agreement about how to pay the arrears.
Your landlord may decide to take legal action against you, which could include losing your home and applying for a county court judgement (CCJ), which sets out what you owe and how you must pay it back. Incurring a CCJ will affect your credit rating, and may make it harder for you to rent privately in the future.
If you are unable to pay your rent but have a guarantor, your landlord or letting agent will contact them for payment.
If you are having difficulty paying your rent, you must let your landlord or agent know the reason as soon as possible as there are organisations that can provide advice. Find out more here.
Ending the tenancy
If your tenancy was fixed term (e.g. six months) and you vacate the property at the end of the fixed term, you are not usually required to give notice. If you stay on in the property anytime for after the fixed term period has expired, the tenancy will become a periodic tenancy (rolling from month to month) and the usual notice period (at least one calendar month )will apply and the notice will need to end at the end of a monthly rental period. If your rent is usually paid other than monthly, this could vary.
If you want to end a fixed term agreement early, you can only do so with the permission of your landlord, or if there is a break clause in the agreement which allows for the tenancy to end early. The notice period required in the break clause will be outlined in your tenancy agreement.
If you leave without giving notice, you will be liable for paying rent up to the date the notice period should have expired. In any event, it is always sensible to speak to your landlord or letting agent when you are thinking about leaving the property.
The landlord is not legally allowed to serve notice if the tenant within the fixed term period unless there is a break clause, or the tenant has breached the conditions of their tenancy agreement.
Deposits and disputes
At the end of your tenancy, your deposit should be returned in full unless the landlord makes reasonable deductions. Deductions can be claimed against your deposit if you left the tenancy before the fixed term ended, if any rent is outstanding, if there is damage to the property beyond ‘reasonable wear and tear’ or the property is not a similar state as at the start of the tenancy, including cleaning.
If there is a dispute about deductions between the landlord or agent and the tenant, the deposit will remain protected in the scheme until the issue has been resolved. Ensuring an inventory was agreed at the start and at the end of the tenancy will help safeguard both parties against such a dispute.
If you are unsure if your deposit has been placed in a Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme, ask your landlord or letting agent, or contact a TDS directly. Click here for more information about deposits.
The landlord is legally responsible for maintaining the structure and exterior of the property, the installations for supplying utilities of what is written in the tenancy agreement. Responsibilities for other repairs may be outlined in your tenancy agreement – if you are unsure, speak to your landlord or letting agent.
It is important to report problems with the property so that your landlord can only make the necessary repairs. If a problem you have not reported worsens over time or causes damage to the property, your landlord may be able to withhold some or all of your deposit in order to pay for the repair.
The government also produce this helpful guide ‘How to rent: the checking for renting in England’ which details your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.
Default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of lost key/security devices, where required, under a tenancy agreement - default fees can only apply when this has been written into the tenancy agreements and covers late payment of rent, a lost key of security device. The amount of default fee is limited to 3% over the Bank of England base rate for each date that the payment is outstanding and applies to rent which is more than 14 days overdue.
If you wish to end the tenancy before the end of the fixed term and there is no break clause or you wish to vacate earlier you may be liable for the landlord's costs which may be reasonable costs that may have been incurred by the landlords agent.